As much as we want to believe that we are in charge of our lives, is that actually true? Do we have drive? Or, are we driven by heredity, habits, bias, social conditionings, and other people? I believe that what we call our self is a composite of many parts. And, it is seldom integrated as much as we hope or believe.

We might have full self-discipline and self-control, or nearly so, in one part of life. Then, we might feel helpless in another. We can have strong, justified confidence in our abilities at work. Then, feel ill fitted and ill fated in a social situation, where we believe we act awkwardly.

Here are some ideas to help determine who or what is in charge of our lives.

• List all the major areas of your life. As a guide, consider the spiritual, mental, emotional, physical, financial, social, and family aspects. Drop, add, or combine as it fits your situation.

• For each area, on a scale of 1 to 5, how much control do you feel you have? Let 1 be no control and 5 be near total control.

• List three to five reasons you gave each area the score you gave it.

• Ask yourself if you have over or under estimated in an area to save face with yourself. Or did you rate it to reflect how much control you’d like?

• For any area that you scored 3 or less, think about options you have to increase your control. Do you feel you have any options?

• Are there any areas where you feel you need help to increase your level of control? What type of help do you need? Who or what can provide it?

• Is there an area that you feel is simply beyond your control?

• On areas where you listed a 4 level of control, what refinements can you make to raise it to a 5? How will you do this? When will you do this? How long will it take you?

• Ask yourself, what does control actually mean to you? Do you want to control your life or the lives of others? Do you want control or the ability to manipulate or meddle? Self-honesty is very important in this exercise.

• Can you let go, be peaceful and take what comes in the areas where you cannot or should not exert control?

It is easy to come up with lists and write quippy suggestions. However, lists can make us aware of something we have either never or seldom thought about. Lists can help give us starting points for a logical look into areas of potential: either positive or negative. Lists can help us develop or refine how we think about the subject of the list.

Tim O’Brien writes continuing-education courses and presents seminars on stress management.